Baking is a fun way to make snacks yourself which you could usually buy, but they taste so much better if you have made them yourself.
Baking is also often pretty convenient to do since most of the staple ingredients are common and do not go bad quickly e.g. flour, sugar, butter, and eggs.
However, there are occasionally times when recipes will require ingredient which are less standard.
One ingredient which often catches people out while baking is buttermilk.
This byproduct of making butter is quite common in some recipes, and it is often an ingredient which you will need to go out of your way to buy.
However, it is not always easy to buy buttermilk since it is not common in every culture.
For example, recipes from the USA are much more likely to include buttermilk than more European baking recipes.
So if you live somewhere where buttermilk is not that common, or your stores do not sell it, or if you are baking in a rush and the store is closed, you are probably thinking if you can substitute anything for buttermilk and if you can make any substitutions yourself.
This article is here to help you work out what you can substitute buttermilk for and which are the best substitutes available!
What Is Buttermilk?
When you churn butter by churning up double cream for an extended period of time, the cream will separate into a solid which is butter, and the liquid is buttermilk.
This is a natural form of buttermilk and is how the ingredient originated.
However, what you will find sold in stores is usually not this, and it is cultured buttermilk which is similar but made by adding lactic acid into standard milk.
Buttermilk is known for its more sour taste which makes it work well in baking and adds a distinct flavor. However, it is much more available in some countries than others.
Where Can You Buy Buttermilk?
You will usually find buttermilk being sold in the refrigerated section of your supermarket and is usually in a carton, tub, or bottle.
If you do not know where to find it, it is usually by heavy cream or sour cream.
You can also sometimes find powdered buttermilk, which as you can imagine turns into buttermilk when you add it to water or milk depending on the results you want.
How Can You Make Buttermilk Homemade?
You can actually quite easily churn butter yourself using just double or heavy cream.
You can buy butter churns which can be quite small and sometimes affordable (these are sometimes found in thrift stores but make sure to clean thoroughly before use).
You can also churn milk in a stand mixer which will require a lot less effort, just make sure you have the right beater for this.
This is a great way to get buttermilk naturally, and homemade butter is delicious, just make sure when you have made the butter to make sure there is no buttermilk left in the butter as this is what makes it spoil.
This is why you wash homemade butter (see also ‘13 Best Butter Substitutes‘) in ice water before storing it.
Can Milk Be Substituted For Buttermilk?
Since milk and buttermilk are so different in texture and taste, as well as what they react with, it is very unlikely that substituting milk for buttermilk will work well.
Because of the composition of buttermilk, it is often used in baking recipes to react with the raising agent you’re using like baking soda or baking powder (see also ‘13 Best Baking Powder Substitutes You Need To Try!‘), so substituting buttermilk in these cases will be particularly useless.
This is why making a substitute for buttermilk, or just going out and buying it is usually recommended.
Simple Buttermilk Substitutes
1. Milk And Vinegar
Most substitutes for buttermilk will recommend some combination of a milk and an edible source of acid, one of the most common is vinegar, this will give the milk the taste of buttermilk as well as affect its texture.
For every cup of milk, add a tablespoon of vinegar and stir.
Try to match the milk type, to the type of buttermilk needed in the recipe, for example, low fat milk for low fat buttermilk.
2. Milk And Cream Of Tartar
Cream of tartar is a staple ingredient for baking, so there is a good chance that you will already have some.
If not it is usually found in the baking section of stores.
You will need 1 and ¾ teaspoons of cream of tartar for a cup of milk, but if you want to avoid it clumping, add it to about 2 tablespoons of milk and mix well before adding this into the rest of the milk.
3. Milk And Lemon Juice
This is another one of the common acids which is available in to add to milk for buttermilk.
All you need is 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. You can used fresh lemon juice or bottled, whichever is more easily available.
4. Lactose Free Milk And Acid
You can use one of the aforementioned acids like vinegar or lemon juice with lactose free milk as well and this is great if you are lactose intolerant.
Buttermilk is naturally lower in lactose, so some people with the condition are able to consume it, but this is worth testing first.
5. Plain Yogurt With Water Or Milk
Yogurt has a similar taste to buttermilk which makes it a good substitute for buttermilk.
For a cup of buttermilk all you have to do is thin 6 ounces of yogurt with a quarter cup of water and mix them together until they are smooth.
6. Sour Cream With Water Or Milk
Sour cream has similar bacteria to buttermilk which makes them very similar in taste.
All you have to do is thin ¾ cups of sour cream with a quarter cup of milk or water and mix it until it is smooth.
7. Plain Kefir
Kefir is a drink made from fermented milk which makes it taste quite similar to buttermilk.
Buttermilk and kefir can be used interchangeably, however heating kefir kills a lot of the good bacteria it has.
8. Buttermilk Powder And Water
Buttermilk also comes in powdered form, so if you have access to this, follow the instructions on the brand you have to get buttermilk!
Soy Based Buttermilk Options
If you prefer soy based options when it comes to making substitutions for your buttermilk, there are a few options.
Using 1 cup of soy milk you can add either a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar, or 1 and ¾ tsp of cream of tartar.
There is also the option to add half a cup of water to half a cup of vegan sour cream, this is a great vegan option as well, you may have to adjust the thickness though.
Finally, you can blend a ¼ cup of silken tofu with ¾ cup of water with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar as well.
Low Carb And Paleo Friendly Options
If you want buttermilk substitutions which are low-carb as well as friendly for a paleo diet (as well as vegan too) all of these options are perfect.
To make a cup of buttermilk substitute all you have to do is add a tablespoon of acid being either lemon juice or vinegar to a milk substitute like; unsweetened coconut milk, unsweetened almond milk, or unsweetened cashew milk.
Hopefully this list has put into perspective how many options there are when it comes to making buttermilk substitutes!
Make sure to leave about 5 minutes after mixing your substitutes at least to make sure that everything has reacted to each other in the right way.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Else Can Buttermilk Be Used For?
Buttermilk is most commonly used in baking, but it does have other uses in more savory dishes, these buttermilk substitutes are designed for baking, so make sure to look for savory specific buttermilk substitutes if that is what you need it for!
Buttermilk is most common in recipes for muffins, and quick breads specifically.
Is Buttermilk Healthy?
Buttermilk is not often consumed by itself, so because of this not many people consider its nutritional value.
The main benefits for buttermilk are that it is high in vitamin A as well as sometimes being easier for lactose intolerant people to digest.
It is also good for gut health because of the good bacteria in it.